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Governmental Law Terminology
The language used in governmental law can be extremely difficult to follow, since much of it is jargon, used exclusively within the field itself. Before you work with a lawyer or research legal issues, familiarize yourself with the following terms:
Affidavit: And affidavit is simply a written statement that is given under oath. The statement can also be given verbally and printed.
Bench Trial: A bench trial is one without a jury of your peers. During a bench trial, the judge is the one who reviews the facts and makes a ruling.
Class Action Suit: This is the term used to describe a case where one or several individuals that are part of a group (such as clients, employees, or patients) sue another entity on behalf of everyone else that has opted in on the lawsuit.
De Facto: This Latin term is used to describe something that exists in fact, but does not necessarily exist in law. Translated to English, it means "in fact."
Grand Jury: The grand jury is a group of individuals, ranging in number from 16 to 23, that listen to the facts being offered by a prosecutor. This is done before some trials to decide whether there is sufficient evidence and probable cause to believe a crime happened. This is similar to an indictment.
Hearsay: Hearsay is when a witness provides evidence by word of mouth. In other words, the individual didn't see it him or herself, but heard it from someone else.
Jurisdiction: The ability of a court to hear and rule upon certain cases depends on the court's jurisdiction. This applies not just to geographical location, but to the type of trial as well.
If you work for the state or federal government, chances are you're agency is under the regulation of a governmental law firm (also known as administrative law) working to ensure the appropriate amount of power is being used by your agency. The branch of government, including executive and legislative and independent civil agencies, determines from whom the governmental law practice is granted its regulatory authority. If you have noticed ethically questionable uses of power within your branch, you may consider looking up the governmental law firm to check up on things. At the same time, if you have noticed what appears to be over regulation by the administrative law practice, refer to the Administrative Procedure Act for research; this legislature was passed to keep the governmental law firms and their attorneys in check. The same would go for if you are a lawyer who is part of a governmental law firm and you notice inconsistencies, ethical or otherwise. With both sides checking up on each other, the likely hood of abuse of power decreases. Some of the issues commonly dealt with include education, environmental laws, taxes, boundaries, labor and employment, and motor vehicle departments. One way to find an administrative law firm is by looking in your local yellow pages, and on the internet. Make note of the area of government on which the practice focuses. Call around to get an idea of the range of rates for service and the differences between the attorneys and their firms. When researching on the internet for administrative lawyers, be sure to make note of which municipality they primarily deal with, or if they part of the federal branch.